The abject failure of yesterday’s Rally Against Debt, a march designed to bring out the “silent majority” of selfish, wingnut libertarians that our sizeable online cohort of selfish, wingnut libertarians insist really exists, provided much mirth across the left-wing blogosphere. But pointing and laughing at the way that 300 pro-cuts activists made public fools of themselves conceals a wider point about the way our current political narrative is being skewed towards what is, self-evidently, a tiny minority of right-wing blowhards.
Even the attendance of such heavyweights as UKIP’s Nigel Farage, TaxPayers’ Alliance director Matthew Sinclair and blogger P. Staines (a.k.a. Guido Fawkes) failed to attract more than a handful of attendees. Even Toby Young, touted as one of the march’s “big names,” was too busy taking his kids to a pirate exhibition to attend – as has been suggested by many others, presumably he was taking the opportunity to treat his children in this way while such things are still free.
Yet, as numerous commentators have pointed out, the Rally Against Debt still attracted more media coverage than this week’s “Hardest Hit” march, raising awareness for the government’s assault on sick and disabled people, despite the fact that ten times more attended the latter. As Sue Marsh said in a guest post at LabourView:
Thank goodness we’re not still being ruled – and our media controlled – by an out of touch, elite, mish-mash of greedy self-interest eh? It is our proud democracy and free press that make this country a beacon of hope around the world.
In terms of the ratio of rally attendees to column inches generated, the Rally Against Debt was a rip-roaring success. By any other metric, it was a miserable failure.
One explanation offered to me for the derisory turnout at yesterday’s march was that “it’s hard to organise a march without well-funded backers.” (Contrasting yesterday’s disaster, presumably, with the TUC’s “March for the Alternative” which attracted upwards of 250,000 attendees). Two rebuttals immediately spring to mind:
Firstly, to suggest that a march backed by the TaxPayers’ Alliance didn’t have “well-funded backers” is beyond absurd. The TPA is extraordinarily well funded, even if they won’t say by whom.
Second, the Hardest Hit march had no really wealthy backers at all. It was the tireless efforts of disabled rights activists and charities, predominantly on the Internet, that made the march such a success.
No, there is a far simpler explanation for the failure of the Rally Against Debt. There is no “silent majority” of libertarians at all. In fact, they are a very tiny, if very vocal, minority. Hopefully the unmasking of their fringe status yesterday will persuade the media to give them the attention they deserve – that is, not much.